Two Sundays ago, after I finished shooting the Fiesta DC latino festival in Penn Quarter, I walked up to meet my wife in Chinatown. Being the street photographer that I am, I had my camera out, snapping away as I walked up 7th St NW. As I walked by the McDonalds in Chinatown, I saw a man running my direction. I pull up my camera and take a photo as he passed by. I kept walking, thinking nothing of it really, until I heard someone speaking to me.
“Where I’m from people ask permission before taking someone’s photo.”
Great, this guy is gonna give me crap for taking a photo in a public place. I respond by just saying “OK” as I continued to walk up 7th St. After I respond, he asks me to delete the photo. I told him that I wish I could, but as I shoot film, that was impossible. He then demanded that I give him my film.
When I declined that request, he again demanded me to give him my film. I told him again that I wasn’t going to do that and kept walking.
At this point he threatened me. ”If you don’t give me that film, things are going to get violent.”
I responded, saying, “If you do that, you’ll be arrested for assault. Why don’t we just walk up a little further and see what the police think.”
Him: ”You saw me running earlier, so you know I don’t have a problem with running.”
I continue walking away when he finally stepped in my path, and bumped me with his forearm. Immediately I put up my hands and told him to not touch me.
As I tried to step around him, he then grabbed my prescription sunglasses off my face and sprinted down 7th towards the Verizon Center. I yell back, calling him an asshole, and walked towards 7th and H, where I knew lots of cops tended to mill about. Luckily, I had my regular glasses in my camera bag.
When I couldn’t find a cop, I walked into MPD’s Asian Liasion Unit looking for help. Since it was late on a Sunday, that office was desserted. I was about to look up MPD’s phone number when I saw two cops across the street dealing with another issue.
I walked up and told them I needed to report a robbery and assault. They asked me to recount my story and give a description of my attacker. Flabbergasted at what happened to me, one officer asked me to hop in his cruiser and we circled the block looking for him.
No luck there.
As the other officer took down my info, a call came on the radio came stating someone matching this guy’s description was found. I hopped in the officer’s cruiser again and went to see if I could ID the guy. They happened to get the wrong guy. He did match my description, but it was the wrong guy.
When the officer returned me to Chinatown, he gave me all the technical info (case number and such) about the incident. I can follow up once I develop my film and hand over a my photo of the guy to the investigating officer. Also, I was told a detective would look up surveillance video (thanks Big Brother) to see if they could ID the guy, hoping he may be a regular that they may be able to recognize.
I asked the officer if there was anything I could do to have made the situation better or at least know what to do differently if something like this happens again. He told me its just best to apologize and just walk away and try to flag down a cop if possible. But the key is to just get away, because, as he succinctly put it, “I’ve seen people get stabbed or worse for much much less.”
I was really impressed by the was MPD handled the case. I felt like it was their concern to find the guy and they genuinely wanted to catch him. Both officers I dealt with were very professional and incredibly nice and at no time did they try to blame me because I happened to take his photo.
The whole incident just irritates me more than anything. I ultimately just felt like a kid getting bullied on the schoolyard. Even to the point of the bully humiliating me because I wore glasses. He might as well yelled, “Neener-neener neener,” as he ran away.
In the meantime, if you see this guy around DC, please call MPD (202.698.0555) and report his location in reference to case number CCN 134-732.